Dec. 17, 2021

UCalgary researcher honoured for national impact helping moms and babies 

Kara Nerenberg leads national effort to address high blood pressure among women before and after pregnancy
Kara Nerenberg
Kara Nerenberg

Every year in Alberta about 3,800 women have a high-risk pregnancy, due to complications brought on by high blood pressure. 

These women are four times more likely to develop chronic high blood pressure, 2.5 times more likely to experience cardiovascular disease and about twice as likely to have a heart attack or die of heart disease. 

According to Dr. Kara Nerenberg, MD, a UCalgary clinician-researcher who focuses on caring for women with high blood pressure during and after pregnancy, between seven and 10 per cent of pregnancies have a blood pressure (hypertensive) disorder. It can lead to serious pregnancy conditions, such as preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome and gestational hypertension. 

Yet, fewer than 10 per cent of women who have experienced preeclampsia, which can lead to heart, brain and kidney damage, are aware they are at risk and many of these women don’t receive followup care, she says. 

Nerenberg, who holds the Women’s Heart and Brain Health Mid-Career Research Chair supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Heart and Stroke Foundation, has been working for several years to improve health outcomes for moms and babies. 

Besides running her own clinical practice, she is a prolific researcher with numerous publications on the topic, a well-known speaker and patient advocate. 

Nerenberg is well regarded nationally for her expertise. She led a pan-Canadian Hypertension in Pregnancy Guideline Committee, which resulted in publication of the inaugural Canadian clinical practice guidelines in 2018. In 2020, those guidelines were expanded to include followup care for women who had experienced a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. 

“These guidelines help set standards of care and best practices for caring for women who experience high blood pressure disorders during their pregnancy,” says Nerenberg. “The goal of developing them was to improve outcomes for moms and babies during and after pregnancy.”

Most recently, Nerenberg learned she received a Hypertension Canada New Investigator Award. “Having a national organization acknowledge the importance of this research is motivating,” says Nerenberg, who was nominated by a peer for the award. “It helps us know we are on the right track and validates that the research is meaningful.”

Kara Nerenberg is an associate professor in the departments of Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). She is a member of the CSM’s Libin Cardiovascular Institute and O’Brien Institute for Public Health.